Education Tests Students—Never Tests Its Teaching Methods

    Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

     Wherein we see that the educult does what it wants based on theories which are never tested. Been sayin’ that for years Bub. Ain’t no one listened so I just keep sayin’ it.

Why no large-scale testing of American education ideas?
Bruce Deitrick Price –

So much of modern, progressive education pretends to be based on big, profound insights and massive research.

More often, bits of theory and dabs of testing are taped together and presented to the world as a mighty fortress, which on proper examination turns out to be a house of cards.

The striking fact about education is how easy it would be to test one curriculum against another, one textbook against another, and so on. You could have 1000 students on the west side of a city compete against 1000 students on the east side. There are so many millions of K-12 students, it’s easy to create the equivalent groups, matched for gender, income, IQ, ethnic origin, or anything else you want to test. A few years later, you would know with confidence that program A is superior to program B or vice versa.

You have to wonder: why is this not done?


  The reason it’s not done is that education is a cult. A cult knows things with the certainty and zeal that always goes along, paradoxically, with lack of knowledge. The reason education is a cult is that it receives money without performance requirement and has a great PR department.

There seems to be no comparative testing throughout public education. More crucially, there seems to be no curiosity about what such testing would show. Apparently the Education Establishment knows its favorite theories and methods won’t show up well in testing.

Here is an interesting historical fact. John Saxon, the famous textbook author and publisher, routinely challenged the Education Establishment to engage in large-scale competitions. He offered to pay all expenses. He claimed that his books would beat the Reform Math materials “by an order of magnitude.” Guess what? The pretenders in charge of our public schools refused to accept Saxon’s challenge. It seems fair to say they tacitly acknowledged they would lose. (Even without this head-to-head testing, Saxon’s books were shown to be clearly superior because Saxon students signed up for further math courses at a much higher rate. They understood math and enjoyed math. Conversely, Reform Math ruins both ability and appreciation.)

So what do our official experts do instead of testing proposals in an empirical and scientific way? Basically, they concoct little ideas in little laboratories. Often, the ideas are nothing but truisms, something on the level of: if children know a little about X, they will more quickly be able to learn more about X. Different professors conduct experiments with small groups of children, and announce support for this or that aspect. The theory is propounded in ever more grandiose ways until finally every action the school takes must revolve around what students know about X. A million hours will be wasted assessing this trivial question.

Here is the common research pattern. Smith (2010) references Jones (2007), who had previously referenced Wilkens (2004). Finally, Henderson writes a book demonstrating that children learn more if they already know something, citing Wilkins, 2004; Jones, 2007; Smith, 2010. It seems as if a vast scaffolding of evidence supports this theory. You can imagine that young teachers or students in graduate school are suitably dazzled.


    Referencing the theories of others and calling it research is a very short step away from using the “Thoughts of the Glorious Leader” as justification for action.

This example is similar to what happened in the case of Self-esteem. It’s a safe truism that if children feel good about themselves, they will be more successful in school. Does that need to be said? But the Education Establishment took this wisp of common sense, treated it as a theory that should rule the world, and used it to eliminate anything that might be difficult for anybody. (Some children can’t memorize multiplication tables? The obvious answer is that nobody should be required to do this task. Failure is just too painful and must be outlawed.)

The biggest hoax in American education was known as Look-say circa 1930 when it was introduced. The sophistry (that words could be memorized as diagrams) was not tested against phonics. In fact, what little testing there was showed that Look-say was a loser.

Years go by and Rudolf Flesch writes “Why Johnny Can’t Read” in 1955. The reading wars were begun in earnest. The appropriate thing at that point was to conduct large-scale experiments. But such tests did not happen. Instead, the professors created a propaganda organization called the International Reading Association, whose job was to smash phonics and trash Flesch. They had their answer; and the task after that was to make everything conform to the answer they had already chosen

There are two striking points. Large-scale testing is easy to do. But it’s hardly done at all. Apparently our Education Establishment selects its winners and losers in back rooms, like banana republic dictators, and then creates window dressing to justify the picks.


    Again, if you give a group money and the majority thinks this group does God’s work and that no one else is capable of doing God’s work, then this group MUST become a cult.

At this moment the Education Establishment is trying to push Common Core through, with dozens of little gimmicks hidden inside of it, none of which have been subjected to proper testing. It’s time for education to be far more scientific. Curricula should be carefully verified in large-scale test. Let’s find out what actually works, for a change.


   Essential idea, but won’t occur until employment is dependent on results.  That’ll focus ‘em.

Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


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